My Desert Island Discs and Other Recommendations
Honestly, when I first put this topic idea down on my list for my 30 Day/30 Blog initiative, I thought this one would be a bit of a “softball.” Quite the contrary, I’ve been putting it off because the more I think about it, the harder it is to decide!!! Let’s face it…a ten disc (which now I guess we should say MP3) list of albums that you’d like to have if you were stranded on a desert island for the rest of your life is so lame, right? I mean how will you charge the batteries for your stereo or keep your iPod charged up! How unrealistic is that??? I jest…
What I’m going to do is “cheat” a little bit. I’m going to give you a list of some of the most influential albums of my lifetime. But since this is 2011 I’m going to change the game a bit and assume we can now talk about an iPod since no one has a CD case anymore that they carry around with them. So maybe we’ll call it the Desert Island Shuffle List. (You heard it here first folks – KrusharmusiK is ahead of the curve once more…) Again, I jest!
As a teacher I’m always telling students about how important it is to listen to music – a LOT of it. Not just what you like to hear, but everything. As a student of music myself, (as any musician is – you can never stop learning) I listen to a TON of different stuff. Obviously I have my favorites, but I always stress that knowledge is power and you need to be exposed to as much music as possible. In fact, I think that this is also true for non-musicians. We all know that traveling abroad and experiencing other cultures broadens your horizons and gives you a different outlook on the world. I really think that if people were more open to other types of music it would help to bridge those gaps that we too often have in our society. Don’t get me wrong; I know that Brazilian music will never be popular to the likes of Lady Gaga here in the states, and most people here won’t be listening to too many Indian Ragas either. My point, rather, is that I think people would like other types of music more if they were just exposed to it, and would ideally break down some of the walls of ignorance that surrounds other cultures. I was listening to some Samba one time and someone said to me: “Man, this music is makin’ me want to go eat a burrito!” Yeah; no comment on this one…
So without further adieu, here is my version of the iPod Desert Island Shuffle List in which most of it would consist of ‘shuffling’ between artists and specific albums. These are in no particular order of preference.
1) Anything by Miles Davis
2) Anything by James Brown
3) Anything by Bill Frisell
4) Anything by Al Green
5) Anything by Otis Redding
6) Anything by Bill Withers
7) Anything by Esquivel
8 )Anything by Led Zeppelin
9) Anything by Sinatra
10) A good recording of Stravinsky’s “The Firebird Suite”
OK, OK, I know that I’m seriously cheating with that. This is my “I’m stuck on an isolated island” list that if any of this came up on the iPod I’d be cool. So I won’t be too boring or vague, let me list some specific albums that have been really influential to me and my playing. Keep in mind, growing up I wasn’t exposed to a lot of diverse music. I was a pretty big KISS fan and thought someday I’d be a Heavy Metal Star. Now I play steel pan and love Calypso music – go figure! Although I’d never take back anything from my past experiences, I won’t really include much of what I used to listen to a lot. Don’t get me wrong – I just bought a KISS DVD awhile back and love going to concerts when I can. One of my newer heavy rock joys is listening to Slipknot! (Yeah you read that correctly!)
So here we go – I think everyone should listen to each of these discs at least once. Most of them you probably already have? Again, these appear in no particular order…
1) Miles Davis – “Kind of Blue” THE jazz album in my opinion. Perfect ‘primer’ for anyone that doesn’t know a lot about jazz. Perfect for the most seasoned jazz professional, as well. Timeless melodies and playing. Obviously Miles is a huge influence musically but the other album I find myself listening to quite often is “We Want Miles” which is a live recording.
2) Cannonball Adderley – “Somethin’ Else” Not as well known as the previous listing but chalked full of amazing musicians and incredible arrangements
3) Jaco Pastorius – “Holiday for Pans” This one is by far one of my favorites but definitely reserved for the more adventurous. Some unique arrangements with great musicians and lots of steel pan. I would also highly suggest “The Birthday Concert” which is another amazing Jaco album with an all-star live band. Erskine sounds killer on this one!!!
4) Sinatra and Jobim – Self Titled No matter who you are, go buy this now. Sinatra singing Jobim’s many bossa nova hits with string arrangements by Claus Ogerman. Perfect for listening in any setting. Haunting melodies and beautiful strings – classic!
5) Bill Frisell – “Good Dog, Happy Man” Almost like listening to a lush soundtrack of life, in my opinion. Love Bill’s sound and vibe and Jim Keltner is amazing on this one
6) Frank Zappa – “Tinseltown Rebellion” Some don’t care for Zappa but he was amazing, and so were his bands – this live recording is no exception to the rule
7) Andy Narell – “Little Secrets” Listened to this one in college over and over and over. This is really what got me excited about steel pan. Still listen to it. Also check out “Behind the Bridge” my second close favorite of Andy’s.
8 )Mike Mainieri – “An American Diary” Beautiful arrangements of some classics and not-so-familiar tunes by my favorite vibes player and all around musician. Saw him at PASIC live when this came out and his soloing and phrasing have been a huge influence on my playing
9) Jeff Beck – “Who Else?” Love his mixture of electronic elements with bluesy/funky playing. Great album and really turned me on to Jeff’s other music
10) Steve Khan – “Casa Loco” The vibe on this album is incredible and so is the musicianship! This was the first time I had ever really checked out Steve Jordan on drums. I go through withdrawals if I don’t listen to this album every once in a blue moon!
11) Kazumi Watanabe – “One for All” Live recording; admittedly I originally bought this because Mainieri is on it and I wanted to hear a particular arrangement. Since then I’ve been blown away by Kazumi’s playing and love checking his stuff out. AMAZING live recording here of some A list musicians
12) Dizzy Gillespie – “Jambo Caribe” A lot of people don’t even know this exists. Dizzy did a calypso-influenced album. One of my favorites. So much soul in Dizzy’s playing that it hurts. There will never be another like him!
13) 16 Carnival Hits by the Mighty Sparrow and Lord Kitchener – Old Calypso classics from 2 of THE greatest calypsonians ever. I go into a little more detail about this in my Calypso Music blog.
14) Willie Nelson – “Country Man” Yep you’re reading that correctly. Willie did a reggae album and it’s nothing short of brilliant. I have listened to this over and over again. So much soul in Willies voice and playing and his phrasing is killer! Don’t sell it short until you take a listen
15) Monty Alexander – “Ivory and Steel – Island Grooves” This is actually a two disc compilation of Monty’s first two Ivory and Steel projects featuring Othello Molineaux and Boogsie Sharpe on steel pan. Othello is one of my favorites and this was my first introduction to Boogsie’s playing which is nothing short of virtuosic at times.
Well, I’m going to stop there. I have so many more albums to recommend. I haven’t even touched the surface on some Brazilian, Salsa, or even some of the electronic music that I’m into. A goal for a long time has been to get a list together for students separated in different categories of interest. Maybe this blog will now be a good incentive to get that going! If any of you would like any of my suggestions on certain genres or more listings, don’t hesitate to let me know!
Remember, these are albums influential to ME. That’s the beauty of music – we all like something different. Now it’s your turn – what would be on your list?